Small island nations struggle to recover from pandemic, UN says


Small Island Developing States (SIDS) face an uphill struggle to recover from the impact of the pandemic, which has exacerbated their financial and economic vulnerabilities, according to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development.

The past year has been an exceptionally difficult year for SIDS, which are at least 35% more susceptible to external economic shocks than other developing countries, said UNCTAD in his Development and globalization: facts and figures report Thursday.

Although these countries are a diverse group, they share a number of socio-economic and environmental challenges and experienced an estimated 9% drop in their gross domestic product in 2020, compared to a 3.3% drop in others. developing countries, according to the report. , citing figures from the International Monetary Fund.

The economies of the 38 SIDS recognized by UNCTAD depend heavily on travel and tourism. Spread across the Caribbean, Pacific Ocean, Atlantic, Indian Ocean and Mediterranean, these countries are home to some of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. They also include island nations with more developed economies, such as Singapore.

Their dependence on the travel and tourism sector to earn foreign currency income made them more vulnerable to the Covid-19 pandemic, which tipped the global economy into its worst recession since the 1930s, forced border closures and severely disrupted the travel and tourism industry.

The global economy is rebounding and is expected to grow 6% this year, according to the IMF. However, the tourism sector faces a more uncertain outlook amid the second and third waves of the virus in some parts of the world.

Revenues of the global tourism industry fell 74% year-on-year in 2020, resulting in a loss of export revenues of $ 1.3 trillion. The sector is unlikely to return to pre-pandemic levels before 2023, according to the United Nations World Tourism Organization.

The economies of tourism-dependent island nations suffered an estimated 70% drop in travel receipts in 2020, which is “a critical source of jobs and livelihoods,” according to the UNCTAD report.

“Many SIDS have built strong service economies [and] the service sector accounted for over 70% of SIDS GDP in 2019, ”the report says. “On average, two in three people work in services in island economies, half of men and three in four women, often in tourism-related jobs.”

On average, service exports represent 25 percent of the GDP of SIDS. These countries generally have an import surplus and almost half of their exports come from the travel sector. As a result, 24 of the 38 countries had a negative trade balance representing more than 55% of imports in 2020.

Their remoteness poses a significant challenge to their recovery, especially the more isolated Pacific island nations.

The often weak and financially vulnerable institutions of countries are also a stumbling block for a return to growth.

“SIDS are among the most indebted developing countries in the world,” Unctad said. “In 2019, external debt represented 62% of their GDP – a record, mainly due to the increase in short-term debt and private debt. “

Small Island Developing States or SIDS

Antigua and Barbuda





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Dominican Republic









Marshall Islands

Federated States of Micronesia




Papua New Guinea


Sao Tome and Principe


Saint Kitts and Nevis


Saint Vincent and the Grenadines


The Solomon Islands




Trinidad and Tobago


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